Give Our Communities a Chance to Stay in the Game

Sep 14 | News

By Coach Mark James

As a Coach, it challenges me to see someone in authority command a player on the field to do something they don’t have the capability to do. A good coach knows you only ask what you know the player has the means to achieve. Otherwise, you set your team up for failure. Coaches that ask their players to achieve things they are not capable of show how out of touch they are with the players they’re serving. So it sickens me that this is what many school districts are doing to parents across Virginia.

Too many school districts are denying parents any in-person education – and the “coaching” they’re giving these parents is, “you can educate them at home.” This may be possible for a wealthy, middle-class family that has a 2,500 square foot home, multiple living spaces, and quality internet and technologies. But that’s not what Virginians in the communities I serve – like Gilpen Court in Richmond – are working with.

For the mom working a full-time job, living in a home with less than 800 square feet with multiple kids, how, exactly does the school district expect her to afford taking time off from work to get adequate space and technology to have an effective learning experience in the home? This is why this mom has taxes taken out of her paycheck – but now she’s being robbed of the education she has paid for her children to receive.  If school districts are not going to fulfill their duties, parents should be entitled to their share of education dollars so they can carry out the duty themselves.

The demands these school districts are placing on parents who rely on public education to provide their child with an effective learning environment is completely inconsistent with the capabilities of Virginians who rely on public education. I’ve talked to moms, and the message is, “I can’t do what they’re demanding.”

Nationwide polling found that only 50 percent of parents had a good experience with distance learning in the spring. Parents polled reported spending an average of 10.2 hours a week supporting their child’s education and spent about $200 on school supplies.  This is not good enough for any family, especially the family living in small quarters with limited technology and internet access.  If these numbers were applied to coaching, it would be unacceptable.  School districts need to answer the call of their customers: the parents, the students, and community which they serve.     

Parents are have been abandoned on the field. They lack the equipment and tools they need to bring their kids a win. I’m calling on the members of the General Assembly to support HB 5011. This bill will grant parents a voucher to find an alternative in-person education option when their public school district has left them with no other choice.

Children and families cannot wait. Heart + Mind Strategies polling from June found that 40 percent of parents now believe their children are behind academically.  That number will only continue to grow if parents are left without the resources and tools necessary to educate at home to combat and correct this learning loss.

This is policy, not politics as usual. What undermines a child’s education is when you demand parents who work full-time and live in very confined spaces with bad internet to do the job they don’t have the resources to do! We need to come together to help these parents and their kids by passing HB 5011.

Coach James is a dedicated leadership professional with 20 years of experience working with and coaching students. He is the founder of The Urban Trauma Healing Institute and concentrates on addressing the critical needs in education by exposing the pain caused by systematic thinking.

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